With 1,059 events right across Italy involving tens of thousands of participants and literally millions of people reached both through traditional and social media, the Sustainable Development Festival (21 May - 6 June) was once again this year Italy’s largest sustainability-focused event, as well as being unique on the international scene in terms of attendance. The results of the just-finished Festival were presented to the Italian Chamber of Deputies (the Parliament’s Lower House) on 6 June 6 as part of the “Italy 2030: a sustainably developing country” event. This was attended by representatives of the institutions and the 240-plus organisations signed up to ASviS (the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development) including our Group, which was represented by Director of Communications Roberto Deambrogio.
A sustainability-focused network
“The exceptional success of the Festival,” commented ASviS spokesman Enrico Giovannini, “goes to show that civil society and citizens alike have now realised the central importance of the challenge set by the 2030 Agenda to change our development model through concrete, urgent measures. The political world needs to focus increasingly on these themes and we hope that the government and Parliament will channel their choices in this direction. A future that is sustainable from an economic, social, environmental and institutional perspective is the only future worth us all working towards.”
This concept was also broached at length by Jeffrey Sachs, director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN): “We need greater cooperation rather than division on a global level,” he said, highlighting how fundamental creating an international sustainability network is to winning the battle against the climate crisis. Sachs continued: “Your country can play a pivotal role” in this strategy to help to build “a strong Europe that will become a promoter of international collaboration, sharing and sustainability-oriented policies.”
According to the SDSN director, Italy has “the solutions, technologies and leader companies to drive change.” Indeed Sachs took as his example our work in Chile, where Enel Green Power is the leading renewable energies operator.
According to a recent Eumetra survey, three out of four Italians feel that both the 2030 Agenda goals and a collective commitment to achieving them are a priority. Over 70% of those interviewed felt that putting the SDGs at the centre of their strategy proved the seriousness of companies, and 67% said they would be prepared to pay more for sustainable products.
The figures that emerged from the 17 days of the Festival confirm this growing awareness. For ASviS president Pierluigi Stefanini, the 2019 edition of the Festival “reinforced the main message that we are all responsible for change as individuals, and that no one can feel excluded from the greatest challenge of our times: we are demanding that the 2030 Agenda be considered a central tool in directing the goverment's action, a model on which to direct the manifestoes of all political forces, a shared heritage that looks to the long term.”
This desire is shared, as Giovannini pointed out, across the board by the various institutions and sectors of Italian society that took part in the Festival events. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte committed to launching the “Benessere Italia” (Wellness Italy) steering committee to coordinate 2030 Agenda-oriented public policies. The business associations also outlined the actions that need to be taken in order to accelerate the transition, and demanded a special round table to work out the necessary policies. Environmental organisations and unions have also drafted an equitable energy transition programme. The universities have developed the University Sustainable Development Manifesto, while the Deputy Minister for Education, Universities and Research Lorenzo Fioramonti announced that he also intends to involve Italian industry in the initiative “to work in synergy with university research bodies to ensure that 2020 becomes the year of public debate on sustainable development in Italy.”
What still needs to be done
That said, Giovannini feels there is still much to be done: “Like Europe, the country needsw immediate ansers to tackle the largest and most complex challenges of our times which can only be dealt with through integrated action.” He then continued: “Italian society is ready to do its bit to bring about a development paradigm shift and improve the well-being of everyone. But Italy, like Europe, is currently in a state of economic, social and environmental unsustainability: this is why we are asking that the Alliance’s proposals are embraced to accelerate the process of change and guarantee intergenerational justice.” Marina Ponti, UN SDG Action Campaign director, concluded: “Bottom-up initiatives will not be enough to achieve this. We also need top-down ones, strong political leadership that in some way signals that the time has come for decisive action.”
So all that now remains for us all is to get involved and take our future in hand to help build a sustainable and inclusive world.